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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 24, 1999
                           TO THE NATION

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Tomorrow in church services all across America, we'll be thinking of those who lost their lives in Littleton, Colorado. This is a time for all Americans to pray for their families, as well as those who were injured and their loved ones, and all the people of the schools and the community.

It's also a time for all Americans to ask what we can do -- as individuals and as a nation -- to turn more young people from the path of violence; how we can take responsibility, each and every one of us, for the future of our children. We've seen far too many tragedies like the one at Columbine High School. It's striking that these violent assaults on human life often illuminate the best of the human spirit. We marvel at the bravery of the fatally wounded teacher who led 40 students to safety. We look with admiration at the medics and the police officers who rushed to the scene to save lives; the clergy, the counselors, the local leaders who immediately began the painful process of helping people to heal; and the parents and students who, in the face of hatred, refuse to return it.

At a moment of such terrible, terrible violence, these people didn't turn away -- and we can't, either. Instead, every one of us must take responsibility to counter the culture of violence. The government must take responsibility. Next week, I'll send to Congress two new bills to keep our children safe. First, we must do more to keep guns out of the hands of violent juveniles. My bill will crack down on gun shows and illegal gun trafficking, ban violent juveniles from ever being able to buy a gun and close the loophole that lets juveniles own assault rifles.

Second, we must do more to prevent violence in our schools. My Safe Schools bill will help schools pay for more counselors and conflict resolution programs, more mentors and more metal detectors. It also includes $12 million for emergency teams, to help communities respond when tragedy strikes. And government can help parents take responsibility. It's harder than ever for parents to pass on their values in the face of a media culture that so glorifies violence.

As Hillary pointed out in her book, the more children see of violence, the more numb they are to the deadly consequences of violence. Now, video games like "Mortal Kombat," "Killer Instinct," and "Doom" -- the very game played obsessively by the two young men who ended so many lives in Littleton -- make our children more active participants in simulated violence.

A former Lieutenant Colonel and psychologist, Professor David Grossman, has said that these games teach young people to kill with all the precision of a military training program, but none of the character training that goes along with it. For children who get the right training at home and who have the ability to distinguish between real and unreal consequences, they're still games. But for children who are especially vulnerable to the lure of violence, they can be far more.

Vice President Gore has led the fight to give parents the tools to limit the exposure of their children to excessive violence, from a television rating system to new ways of blocking inappropriate material on the Internet to the V-chip. By this July, fully half of all new televisions will have the V-chip; so will every new television in America by the year 2000. Years ago, Tipper Gore sounded the first alarm about the damaging effects on our children of excessive violence in movies, music and video games. Today, she is still drawing attention to mental illness. This June, she will host the first ever White House Conference on Mental Health, where we'll talk about how to recognize mental illness in young people before it's too late.

These are steps the national government is taking to protect our children. But it is not a job government can or should do alone -- parents come first. They should turn off the television, pay attention to what's on the computer screen, refuse to buy products that glorify violence. Make sure your children know you care about what they're doing.

And to the media and entertainment industries, I say just this: you know you have enormous power to educate and entertain our children. Yes, there should be a label on the outside of every video, but what counts is what's on the inside and what it will do to the insides of our young people. I ask you to make every video game and movie as if your own children were watching it.

In the days ahead, as we continue the process of healing, we must pledge ourselves to the task of putting an end to the culture of violence and building in its place a culture of values we can be proud to pass on to all our children.

     Thanks for listening.